We go behind the scenes to discover how its designer tackled the project with his model making experience.
Adults of a certain age, those that were children of the 60s and 70s have a nostalgic affection for Airfix modelling. They were the pastimes of our youth, with many hours spent with Dad at the kitchen table, often scraping dried glue off Mom’s best cutlery before she noticed!
In a world where computers, mobile phones and social media take up so much of a teenager’s attention, it’s heartening that the Margate based firm is still winning new devotees to its products, whilst retaining, or re-engaging with many of those original baby boomers.
The various pandemic lockdowns certainly helped sales, but a growing reputation for quality, using the latest design and production techniques, means model kits are far better now than ever before.
We take a reflective look at what is involved in creating the latest Airfix Mosquito model, speaking with the lead designer for this project, Paramjit Sembhi, whose past modelling experience had a large impact on how he tackled the development process.
When the Peoples Mosquito project team first met, one of the earliest conversations was on how De Havilland’s stunningly simple concept was in reality, a giant Airfix kit, with two half mouldings coming together to form the main fuselage. The construction was designed to make the best of a readily available resource over that of scarce metals and aluminium. These had already been depleted due to so much aircraft and armoury production in the run-up to war. The viability of fast timber aircraft had already been proven by De-Havilland in the early 30s with their Comet DH.88 racers, built for private individuals to compete in the UK to Australia challenge.
Traditional aircraft construction with time-consuming processes needing metal ribs bolted or riveted together with skins could be avoided, as the cross-ply timber construction had inherent lateral strength. Fit together with inner timber bulkheads and slot on timber wings, and if ever there was an aircraft constructed truly like an Airfix model, then the Mosquito is the full-size equivalent of this production process.
Paramjit commented, “Yes, I modelled as a child, like many other youngsters, I guess, but the novelty wore off as other interests took over. My renaissance as a young adult came after a family holiday, with a memorable visit to the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
“I was fascinated at the sheer scale of the WWII era aircraft carrier commissioned in 1945, and the many historic aircraft on display, both above and below decks. It’s a remarkable museum and well worth a visit. This started me modelling again, my skill set progressing slowly out of ships to more complicated aircraft kits. With a passion of IT and design, it was a natural fit for me when I saw a position available at Airfix and I’m happy to say I have not looked back, since.
The Mosquito is the fifth Airfix model I’ve been involved in, having recently helped complete a BAE Hawk and two Spitfire variants; before developing and leading this project where the latest 3D design and tooling improvements, together with new production techniques, enable us to offer greater accuracy and finer detail than ever before. An improvement policy we have continued through to clearer, more detailed instruction sheets.”
The whole process in designing the Mosquito kit has taken over 18 months. The project was probably 50% complete when the first Covid-19 lockdown struck, yet Paramjit was able to carry on, to some extent, working from home.
“It did mean I was unable to make subsequent Museum visits, so continued to work off the many photographs, measurements and reference books I had amassed. You can imagine it takes a big commitment of time and money to bring a new model to market, these days.”
The result will hopefully keep the Airfix Mosquito model kit popular for many years.
Paramjit continued, “With just over 150 parts, and 1/72 scale, it’s an intermediate kit in terms of complexity and build time, but I’m really pleased at the feedback the kit has been receiving in the modelling communities on the internet. One of the ‘fiddly’ items in aircraft modelling is always the undercarriage assembly, so I was determined to make this as straightforward as possible. The lower wing panels can be used as a jig, holding everything in place neatly whilst being glued. This seems to have been a much-appreciated aspect to the kit’s assembly process.”
We asked: With 3D modelling and a finished design in the PC, can the model be up-scaled easily to make, say, a 1/48th kit?
Paramjit added: “Afraid not. Wall thicknesses and rib lines are just two things that need to change, which then throws up a whole host of issues elsewhere with panel fit, so to complete a Mosquito kit at a different scale we would have to start from scratch. We do, however, have great source material now, and of course, via ‘The People’s Mosquito’ project – access to the original De Havilland production drawings, so this will make any future alternative scale so much easier to deliver.” Let’s hope this 1/72 version sells well and convinces Airfix that another Mosquito variant or scale would be popular.
You can order from our webshop here (LINK TBA)
You can also see and hear Paramjit talk about his experience in designing the Airfix Mosquito by watching a ‘Talk with the Designer’ video here:
Can you help us to continue to build the full-sized Mosquito?
The first to be built in the UK for over 70 years!